Monday, December 30, 2013

Surviving the mosh pit

So I tried my luck and talent at the recent Twitter #PitchMas fest, which is kind of like standing on the trading floor of the literary stock exchange and screaming what your book is about while a couple hundred other writers do exactly the same thing. If your pitch gets a "favorite" star from an agent, you get to send your query and pages to the agent who favorited you.

I kinda felt dirty. And I got sniped at by the Pitch Police for doing exactly nothing wrong. Still, I kept offering my manuscript up on a 140-character platter throughout the day. And then I thought, I have an MFA. I went through three cancer surgeries this year, and you know what? I don't have to put up with this kind of crap.

But yeah... sour grapes and all. I wasn't anybody's favorite.

Still, twitter pitching is a good exercise because it forces you to condense your novel into one very tiny sentence, and doing this helps you gain some interesting perspective on your story. When you're starting out, it's hard to get your query letter down to a one-page letter. It's even tougher to get your manuscript described within a paragraph. Try a sentence. Now try 140 characters. Can you do it? You should be able to. (Oh, and did you save room for the hashtag?) Having that focus on the most important elements of your novel will force you to ask yourself if you're maintaining that focus throughout your manuscript.

Get help from someone who's done it already. (Thank you, awesome Melissa Gorzelanczyk. I wish I'd listened to everything you'd said.) Having an unbiased pair of eyes on your pitch will force the important questions: Who is your character? What is most important about his/her journey or the plot? Why should we care? And yes, you can say it in 15 words or so.

It's also a good thing to get to connect with other writers and see what sorts of things people are doing these days, as well as what's attracting interest. Trends come and go and come back again, and as long as you have a good story it doesn't matter if it's got zombies or talking dogs or whatever. But it's good to see how writers are choosing to think outside the usual literary genre boxes.

And these pitch fests offer another venue for writers to connect with agents. Lots of people were getting requests for queries and manuscript partials, and that's exciting. (Really.)

Want to give it a shot? There's another Pitch fest coming up Jan. 8. Search #PitMad on Twitter to find out more. Dive into the pit, if you dare.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Mayan calendar ends

Welcome to the Holiday Blog Tour ... Did you have a chance to read yesterday's short story "Sacrifices" by Natasha Oliver? You should. Her story beautifully captures the intricacies of family, motherhood and identity.

Tomorrow, please visit the blog of Lupe Mendez, a truly stunning poet.

A year ago, nearly to the day, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. It's been a year of impossible decisions and recovery and reflection. Poetry is not my first language. But capturing the heady, raw emotions of what I went through seemed to call for the limitlessness that, paradoxically, only a compact form can provide. Here is my entry.

The Mayan calendar ends

We stare at the images of my breast
faceless to each other

“Here,” the doctor says, “And here.”

He traces invisible circles
claiming territory
on the spiderwebbed surface of the moon

This is where we will take
core samples
and mine for my future

The shadow of a snake appears
on the temple where sacrifices are made

Somewhere a hunter stumbles upon
a lone rabbit’s foot left
clamped in metal jaws

Monday, December 16, 2013

Down the rabbit hole

How do you define yourself -- ethnically, culturally?

As my friend & fellow writer Natasha Oliver says in her post on the Holiday Blog Tour: We might believe we're different, but we're more alike than we realize.

As a Christmas gift I bought my parents each a 23andMe kit, the same test that's featured on the PBS program Finding Your Roots hosted by Professor Henry Louis Gates. It's also the same test that the FDA is trying to shut down because of the health information component. But we were mainly interested in our recent and ancient ancestry.

Oh, we thought we knew ourselves.

The boundaries of how I had defined myself culturally are an illusion. That we are different is an illusion. My world got bigger and smaller at the same time. How amazing that our skin, our blood contains this crazy treasure map of history.

I feel the endless stories that brought me to my own. I am spinning in the vastness of possibility.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday blog tour starts tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow

It's that time of year again: The Holiday Blog Tour, organized by the fantabulous Icess Fernandez. It's a chance to visit the blogs of various and varied writers and get to know their work. Here's the line-up:

Dec. 16, Teresa Carbajal Ravet,
Dec. 17 Nathasha Alvarez,
Dec. 18, Natasha Oliver, Peace and Center
Dec. 19, Nikki Kallio, Purple Houses
Dec. 20, Lupe Mendez, The Poet Mendez
Dec. 21, Anabel Lucio Morales, My Meandering Thoughts
Dec. 22, Icess Fernandez Rojas,
Dec. 23, Regina Tingle,

I'm up Thursday... gonna try something different ... wait for it... a poem! (gasp). It's outside of my comfort zone, but then, so was this past year. Way out of my zone. So, please stop back in on Thursday and have a look...